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Professional Engineering Education Best Practice Study For First Year, Multi Disciplinary Courses

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

FPD3 -- Professional Issues for First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1031.1 - 11.1031.10



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Paper Authors

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John Simmons University of Queensland


Elise Barrella Bucknell University

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ELISE M. BARRELLA is a senior Civil and Environmental Engineering major at Bucknell University. Upon acceptance to Bucknell, she was selected to be a Presidential Fellow, which provided a stipend to support her research on this project. The best study practice was conducted at The University of Queensland, Australia while Elise was studying abroad for the Spring 2005 semester. In addition to her fellowship research, Elise is vice president of programming for Bucknell's student chapter of ASCE, a member of Delta Gamma sorority, and a teaching assistant.

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Keith Buffinton Bucknell University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Professional Engineering Education Best Practice Study for First-Year, Multi-disciplinary Courses


Highly beneficial professional engineering courses are those that include both components of theory and hands-on learning. Hands-on group design projects can be viewed as essential because they tie together all of the theory and force students to start thinking like real engineers. Through the presentation and assessment of design projects, students can recognize their strengths and weaknesses (time management, communication skills, problem solving ability, etc.) early on so that they can develop these skills in future courses. This approach of combining theory and practice is consistent with criteria set forth by Engineers Australia and ABET for engineering degree programs. Both organizations encourage a realistic understanding of professional practice, including project management and ethics, and require students to be able to work in multi-disciplinary groups and communicate effectively. Although universities have the entire duration of the degree program to meet these requirements, students benefit greatly from early exposure. The purpose of this study was to discuss best practices for introductory courses that focus on professional engineering skills and practice. Through internet-based research, information was gathered about 82 courses at universities in Australia, the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Courses that were multi-disciplinary and mandatory for first-year students were analyzed to determine best practices; the University of Queensland’s Introduction to Professional Engineering course was used as a case study.

1.0 Introduction

According to feedback from employers, a major weakness of engineering programs continues to be producing graduates with an unrealistic view of the role of professional engineers and inadequate professional skills.4 Today, universities are actively trying to better prepare students with the communication, teambuilding, business and interpersonal skills to complement their technical engineering knowledge. Many universities are beginning this preparation during the first year with introductory professional engineering courses.

A profession is a learned calling which requires advanced knowledge, understanding, and abilities that are gained from intensive and specialized education, training, and practical experience. More specifically, professional engineering involves the application of a theoretical body of knowledge to solving problems and designing systems. Professional engineers are expected to work as members of teams to develop innovative and creative solutions to problems. They must make judgments about design options based on cost, aesthetics, risk of failure, and environmental impact. In addition, they must be willing to undertake on-going learning to update their knowledge and refine their skills.2

According to a survey conducted by the Engineers Leadership Foundation and the Foundation for Professional Practice of almost two hundred senior engineering managers and leaders, engineering knowledge is essential, but leadership positions can be attained earlier if engineering graduates have been exposed to management, public speaking, and other non-engineering coursework. Respondents highly recommended taking courses in

Simmons, J., & Barrella, E., & Buffinton, K. (2006, June), Professional Engineering Education Best Practice Study For First Year, Multi Disciplinary Courses Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--115

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